Kurshan’s If All The Seas Were Ink

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

 Ilana Kurshan

This book has been making the rounds among many of my friends and family and people’s reactions are so stark, and so diametrically opposed. There are those who love this book, who relate to its extreme bookishness, to the authors attempts to come to grips with her life through a deep reading of, centrally, the Talmud, but also through her reading of other, non-religious texts.

Then there are others who see the book as emotionally distant, the work of a someone unable, or unwilling, to address her emotional life head on, and who rather mediates all her relationships through text.

I fall into the first camp.

If all the Seas Were Ink is a memoir of the years Ilana Kurshan spent as part of Daf Yomi, the “largest book club in the world’ in which thousand of (mostly) Jews read single page of the Talmud, every day, for a little more than seven years. Kurshan’s reading of the Talmud is the through line in the book, while around it she struggles with a divorce, dating, meeting a new man, and having children. She contemplates love, Judaism and motherhood all the through the prism of Torah and literature.

To some people (i.e. ME) this is irresistible. To others, it’s all perhaps a bit much. You probably won’t know what camp you fall into until you read it yourself.


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